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Volume 22 No. 12
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MLB: What’s on deck?

League takes its game to Europe and continues focus on pace of play, new homes for A’s and Rays.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announces London games, joined by Red Sox owner John Henry and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Photo: getty images

As Major League Baseball continues to experience historic waves of change both on and off the field, 2019 promises to be another eventful year. A sampling of expected highlights this coming season:

LONDON CALLING: An aggressive special event plan has MLB staging games in Japan; Puerto Rico; Mexico; Omaha, Neb.; and once again in Williamsport, Pa., this year. But the focal point will likely be two scheduled games in late June in London featuring the sport’s foremost rivalry: the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The games will be MLB’s first played in Europe, long a more elusive territory in the league’s overseas development efforts.

LOCAL MEDIA UNREST: Local market rights have long served as an economic bedrock for the sport. But the future of that foundation will be established in the forthcoming year as Disney is required to resell the regional sports networks it is acquiring from Fox, and the league seeks to renew expired in-market streaming agreements.

ON-FIELD ACTION: Potential rule changes to boost on-field action have been a key source of ongoing negotiations between MLB and the MLB Players Association. Potential developments for 2019 include the long-expected implementation of a pitch clock, which has been used at the upper levels of the affiliated minor leagues.

BALLPARK WATCH: Oakland and Tampa Bay’s pursuits of new ballparks have each lasted more than a decade. But the efforts in both markets will take on a heightened urgency in 2019 as the A’s try to get approvals on the club’s aggressive two-stage plan to develop both Howard Terminal and the Coliseum property, while the Rays are now back to square one after their Ybor City proposal fizzed out last month.

TURNSTILE TRACKING: After attendance — still an all-important indicator for baseball — fell in 2018 to its lowest level in 15 years, the daily counts in 2019 will receive plenty of attention not unlike the stock market indices. And more creative sales approaches, such as the A’s new membership-based ticket model, will continue to grow in prominence.